In a disappointing move for online firms, Federal Communications Commission Chief Kevin Martin said that he supported ISPs that wished to offer tiered service for providers willing to pay for preferential treatment. However, at the industry trade show TelecomNext, Martin also stated that he believed the FCC was able handle so called 'net neutrality' problems, where ISPs block specific content from service providers.
AT&T chief Ed Whitacre had previously argued that companies like Google should pay for the use of their 'pipes', and that they were 'nuts' to think they could use it for free. Google, like any other online company, pays for bandwidth. Further, any consumer paying for an internet connection pays ISPs for bandwidth and access to pipes. Whitacre recently toned down his comments that had caused serious worry in the industry, saying he had no intention of degrading consumer access.
In the Q & A, Martin said that believed "I do think the commission has the authority necessary" to handle net neutrality violations, and noted that the FCC had recently arbitrated over a recently blocking of Vonage's VOIP service. Martin, seemingly missing the apparent contradiction in his comments, didn't seem to expand on how consumers who didn't wish to pay for a tiered internet could ensure they still enjoyed good quality of service.
Vint Cerf, internet inventor and current Google employee / lobbyist recently testified to the US congress on the issue. "
Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network
operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to
potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in
control of online activity. Allowing broadband providers to segment
their IP offerings and reserve huge amounts of bandwidth for their own
services will not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and
Martin's comments from the FCC fall into a deep, worrying and on-going melting pot of discussion between ISPs and online businesses. Whether it reflects a desire to make sure the FCC 'stays relevant' in the online world, or a true concern for consumers is unclear. Senator Ron Ryden (D-OR) recently proposed a bill to ban companies from discriminating traffic they carry; expect to hear much more on this issue as the year progresses.
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